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A Front Row Seat in Heaven MAG
My dad's childhood was one endless game of basketball and, even as an adult, hecould shoot hoops dawn to dusk and beg for more, but I was the type of littlegirl who, when asked to play a sport, would look at my freshly paintedfingernails and say, "You have got to be kidding." Besides breaking andchipping, the sweat and intensity of any game turned me off. Although he neversaid so, he always wished I had been an athlete and was forever telling me aboutbasketball sign-ups. The information went in one ear and dribbled out the other.But when I told him that I wanted to listen to Mariah Carey and Broadway musicalCDs to find my inner diva, he was right by my side, saying, "You go,girl."
My mom told me she knew I was going to be a singer since I wasborn. When I was a baby I was constantly humming, and supposedly at anear-shattering pitch. I began to love everything about singing, the stage, themicrophone, the audience, the attention.
In life and death my father hasbeen my musical inspiration. That may sound ironic for a man who had a hard timestaying on key singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but I lovedwhen my dad would listen to me sing. After dinner, he would often ask if I wantedto sing him a song. It was our own mini-concert. He always assured me that myinterpretation of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "I Will AlwaysLove You" were much more impressive than Whitney Houston's, giving me suchself-confidence. At every recital and school concert he was there, cheering meon. The look of pride on his face made me beam.
My dad and I formed thestrongest bonds over music. My childhood memories are filled with jam sessions,with Dad on the air guitar and me on vocals. Once in a while we would recruit mymom for the bongos. We also introduced each other to new kinds of music: hisBilly Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton and my New Kids on the Block and,eventually, the Backstreet Boys. I think I convinced him that knowing who theywere was enough to be considered cool. Dad loved music, but I think he loved iteven more because I did.
As the years floated by, so did the concerts,voice lessons and laughter. Though my mom and brothers supported me, they did notshare our passion for music. "Does Mary Kate really have to sing anothersong, and do I have to listen?" would often slide out of my brothers'whining mouths. (Deep down, I mean really deep down, I know that they both enjoyand appreciate my singing). My relationship with my dad could be compared to asong: I was the beautiful melody, and he the supporting harmony.
A measureof my life that I was not expecting began when my dad was diagnosed withpancreatic cancer, a cancer that is 99 percent fatal. My family and friendsprayed for a miracle and hoped that he would be in that one percent, but thedoctors told us his tumor was inoperable, lowering his chances immensely. Duringthis time we all came together to form an amazingly strong community, and evenmade a quilt for my dad with patches from people and places we loved. It includedthe emblem off my brother's (clean) gym shorts, one from my school uniform,poems, memories and messages of love. Dad told us that, "When I wrap thequilt around me, it feels as if everyone who made it is huggingme."
During the seven months of his illness there were many days weboth felt depressed. My dad and I would keep each other company reminiscing withjokes and funny memories. We found humor in the smallest things, for example,calling his commode "His Majesty's Royal Throne," or referring to hisIV as "Dinner." I loved those days. I was truly Daddy's littlegirl.
I do not remember the day I realized Dad might not be victorious inhis battle. During this time he had told me that he would always be listening tome sing from a front row seat in heaven, saying, "This is where my road istaking me; I am not scared." But I was scared that our concerts, endlesstangos, and duets would soon end.
When my dad started his final stages ofhospice, my family and friends creatively made our living room into a bedroom forhim. The nurses came to help wash him and change his clothes. They soon felt like family, and knew where we kept scissors, Band-aids, whateverthey needed. It wasn't long before Carol and Mabel were on a first-name basiswith us all.
About a week before my dad died, he drifted into a comatosestate. They assured me that even though he did not respond, he could still hearme. The nurses, aware of our musical bond, suggested that I sing him a song.Practically in tears, I sang one of our favorites. As I hit the last note, my dadcracked a huge smile, and made a sudden movement to clap. His face at that momentwill forever be planted in my memory. I was so grateful to know that Dad hadheard me sing just one more song. The nurses were stunned that he hadresponded.
My dad died on May 14, 2000. It was hard to believe; he was aperson so filled with life. Words cannot describe how much I missed him. I missedsmall things the most: when he'd walk through the threshold after work, and theway his car always smelled like coffee and Reese's Peanut Butter cups. SometimesI felt as though I had taken advantage of his humor, knowledge and love. I wouldoften reflect on how much time we could have spent together and did not. I woulddo anything to go back and experience his qualities again.
My dad's deathhas had a huge influence on my music. At first it hurt to listen to my favoriteover-played "Les Miserables" CD or watch movies like "Father ofthe Bride," knowing that he won't be there to walk me down the aisle.Singing felt different without his face smiling back at me. After a while, itbecame easier to sing, and listen to our favorite songs. In fact, they started tocomfort me. My mom helped me to understand that Dad would definitely not want meto stop singing.
I began to focus on my memories, and I continued withshows and voice lessons. Now I carry the memories and his smile in my heart. Iwill always know that he is listening from his front row seat in heaven. Hiswords, "Only sing if you are singing from your heart," echo in my head.My dad has and will always be my inspiration.